NASCAR chairman doesn’t expect fallout from fight
Kyle Busch had a gash on his forehead and blood running down his nose when he promised payback to Joey Logano. Busch had gone after Logano, resulting in a brief postrace brawl on pit road whose video played on TMZ, the “Today Show” and other non-sports outlets.
The tussle shoved NASCAR into talk Monday alongside the NCAA Tournament, because, whether NASCAR liked it or not, Busch’s getting pummeled by Logano’s crew is the lasting memory of Sunday’s race at Las Vegas.
As NASCAR tries changes to the points format and slicker marketing to liven up its struggling product, Sunday showed the sport’s mainstream audience mainly wants drama in any form. The race’s drama — a late caution nearly cost Martin Truex Jr. the victory, Brad Keselowski lost because of a car part failure, and his disabled car likely led to the Busch-Logano wreck — took a backseat to the fight.
Inside the racing bubble, all of this is both a dream come true and a nightmare.
NASCAR doesn’t want to be known for brawling, and its drivers don’t particularly enjoy the scrutiny or punishment that comes from bad behavior. But this sport thrives when it has rivalries.
NASCAR Chairman Brian France suggested the drivers aren’t likely to receive harsh penalties.
“We just shouldn’t come out of our chairs over this,” France said Monday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “The pressure on these guys today is so difficult. So it shouldn’t surprise anybody that every once in a while, somebody is going to boil over.”
Busch felt that Logano wrecked him as the two raced past Keselowski’s car, so he walked down pit road afterward, leaving most of his Joe Gibbs Racing crew behind, and sought out Logano. Busch went in swinging.
Logano insists he wasn’t hit, video is inconclusive, but Busch’s walking into a group of Team Penske employees was a recipe for disaster. Penske crew members pulled Busch away, got him to the ground and, in that scrum, bloodied his head.
Car owner Roger Penske has said his employees are there to defuse those situations — his drivers, Logano and Keselowski, have had their share of confrontations — but the only defusing came from one public relations employee who forcefully pulled Logano out of the fray. Most everyone else seemed eager to go at Busch.
NASCAR does not intend for crew members to get involved in these situations. It’s for NASCAR officials to intervene, and ultimately a pair of NASCAR employees pulled Busch from the pile.
Keselowski, who was punched in the face by Jeff Gordon in a 2014 scrum of team members, noted the issue on Twitter. “Fighting in Motorsport is dumb,” he tweeted. “It always turns into a pile and your own guys hit each other. At least in hockey they are good at it.”
Although Busch pledged to get revenge, France believes the blowback from a feud between Busch teammate Matt Kenseth and Logano will put an end to possible payback. NASCAR suspended Kenseth for two playoff races in 2015 after he wrecked Logano in a retaliatory move.
“There will be no retaliation,” France told Sirius. “The drivers understand what we did a couple of years ago at Martinsville, that is unacceptable. So what happens on the track, good or for bad for one driver or another, that’s where it stays, and we move on to the next event.”
Kyle Busch (left) and Joey Logano probably will not receive harsh penalties.